More than a third of Leeds libraries have shut in the last five years, the Yorkshire Evening Post can reveal, with funding slashed by more than £1m.
The figures, uncovered through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, shows that cash sums spent on library services have fallen by 12 per cent since 2011.
A total of 19 out of 53 have been closed, with three of its remaining 34 now run by volunteers.
“This is a tragedy,” said Dr Lauren Smith, of the national Voices for the Library campaign. “There’s a real feeling of hopelessness. It’s absolutely not alright. Libraries are not just about book provision. They help with improving life skills, access to information, lots and lots of support.
“The people most affected by the loss of libraries are those on the fringes of society and the most marginalised. They are not able to shout the loudest.”
Areas with an older population base and with greater access to education also have better access to community library provision, she said, as there are more willing volunteers.
“The areas that are losing most are the ones most in need,” she said.
A spokesman for Leeds City Council said: “Following the New Chapter review and major public consultation into all council-managed library services, 13 libraries out of 53 were closed in 2011 as part of a reconfiguration of the service.
“Four more libraries were considered for community ownership with three being transferred to be run by the public with the other closing.
“Last year Methley Library closed due to low usage and Burley Library closed earlier this year as no suitable alternative site could be found.
“The library service in Leeds continues to evolve becoming more flexible and modern with innovative new digital and online services being introduced.
“Library services have also been integrated into transformational community hubs, offering a range of local services together along with increased opening hours and usage as part of our commitment to providing the best possible levels of service across the city.”
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Sheetal Mistry is a parent who uses Drighlington Library with her three year-old son, Rian several times a week.
She said: “The library is absolutely fantastic, the volunteers and really helpful and friendly in whatever we want to do. I have been coming here with my son for over a year. We literally came in randomly one day because it was raining and from then he got an interest in books. One of the volunteers said there was a story-time session which he enjoyed and we have been coming every week since.
“He chooses his books, takes them home and one of the volunteers does singing and stories and activities connected with the book. It is learning in a fun way and before he even starts school. He has learned a lot just by being here and interacting and making friends. I don’t know what I would have done if it had not been for that.
“I assumed the volunteers got paid but when I was told they relied on donations I was shocked and surprised. I naturally thought it was run by the council and it should be.”